The Untold Truth Of The 1975

With a platinum album and a No. 1 Billboard 200 debut, even the members of The 1975 are shocked by their own success. "This was not supposed to happen," exasperated frontman Matty Healy told the audience at their sold out Madison Square Garden gig in 2017 (via NME). The band's popularity even made the The New York Times question if the group could "drag rock into the future" as the genre notoriously fades from mainstream airwaves. The 1975 might just be the thing to save us all — as long as they can save themselves first. 

Despite what it might seem like, the band didn't suddenly jump out of the North West of England into the Top 40, shirtless and skinny jean-clad, armed with a biting sense of British sarcasm. They've been together since they were school kids in Cheshire, which fostered the bizarre sort of family that, according to The Fader, will tour together for months, then "essentially go on vacation together." This tight-knit mentality has led the band to tackle everything from the Glastonbury Festival and Saturday Night Live to Healy's heroin addiction.

With the release of their third LP, Notes on a Conditional Form, the band seemingly has no ceiling to their success, but nothing happens overnight. This is the untold truth of The 1975.

Is The 1975 a bunch of emo kids at heart?

Like all great millennial artists, the 1975 are hiding an emo past — and the band has reluctantly admitted as much. According to Rolling Stone, singer and guitarist Matt Healy is an "encyclopedia of obscure bands" from the '90s and early aughts, including Cap'n Jazz spin-offs Joan of Arc and American Football, which more or less led an entire subset of early '90s emo rock.

"I was never, like, a super cool dude, walking-down-getting-laid-in-a-leather-jacket kind of teenager," Healy told Rolling Stone. "I was listening to Bright Eyes really neurotically." For reference, Bright Eyes' track "The Calendar Hung Itself" graced Vulture's list, "The 100 Greatest Emo Songs of All Time," along with American Football's "Never Meant." If you take away the '80s-inspired synths, the 1975 aren't all that different than their emo heroes, with Healy telling The Guardian that they rose out of "middle-class boredom" (don't we all), and proclaiming to Rolling Stone that his band was "the best emo band out of Manchester in 2009, and then the worst pop band of 2015."

Even drummer George Daniel told the legendary music magazine that the band were vaguely emo. "People really relate to it, this emo-ish kind of thing," he said. "It's the new emo. If you take the word, emo at face value, where it came from emotional music, not the pop-punk crossover nonsense." Hmm, what was that Fall Out Boy cover, then?

Constant rejection couldn't stop The 1975

The 1975 may be one of the biggest modern pop bands in the U.K. — only really rivaled by now defunct One Direction and the members' subsequent solo projects — but their ethics are punk through and through. The band led the charge with a DIY spirit that ultimately found them success on entirely their own terms.

According to an interview in The Fader, the lads played their first shows at a town hall in Wilmslow, the small Manchester suburb where they grew up. "Our little version of a hardcore scene," frontman Matt Healy said. "Just a lot of drinking and playing music really badly." Their manager, Jamie Oborne, discovered them through a MySpace message, and they didn't release their first EP for a decade, largely because they were rejected from every single major label (let's take a moment of silence for the A&R reps kicking themselves right now).

"When you've got grown-ups, loads of grown-ups with loads of money when you've got no money, and every single one of them comes to your house telling you're not good enough and you don't actually know what you're doing, it really hurts," Healy told Gigwise, adding "It made us think 'f**k it, let's do it ourselves. They don't know what they are talking about.'"

Indeed, they did not. According to The Guardian, Oborne created the label Dirty Hit specifically for the band, and they're still signed there today. 

What's in a name?

According to Billboard, the 1975 have been in a band since they were 13-year-old students at Wilmslow High School in Cheshire, England. For a band that's been around for nearly two decades, you'd think you'd have heard of them before they dropped their string of EPs in 2012 — and the truth is that you might have. They've changed their name so much it's hard to keep track. 

According to NME, the band went by the names Me and You Versus Them, Forever Enjoying Sex, Talkhouse, The Slowdown, Bigsleep and Drive Like I Do. The latter project performed the song "Sex" before it became a massive hit with The 1975. Lead singer Matt Healy maintains that they "are separate entities," though there's been confusion among die hard fans.

So, where did The 1975 come from? Healy was the one who stumbled upon the band's current name in the most Matty Healy way ever. According to an old press bio, he was flipping through "a beat-era book given to him by a 'gregarious artist' he met at a yard sale" when he was 19 years old. Inside, he found "mental scribblings, it was almost suicidal." The notes were dated "1st June, The 1975." 

"I was quite freaked out when I read it," Healy said, adding, "The use of the word 'The' really stuck with me. It was the perfect band name."

The 1975 trolled critics with its second album

If you couldn't tell by the sheer number of times frontman Matt Healy stuck out his tongue and gyrated during the band's performance on Saturday Night Live, the Cheshire rockers are total trolls. They didn't need the majors, and they really didn't need the critics. They do what they want. According to Rolling Stone, the band purposely made I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It as extra as possible to clap back at the critics who tried to define them (starting with that mouthful of a title, probably).

"Every criticism, every compliment, every conversation surrounding that first album has been included and been exaggerated," Healy told Rolling Stone. "Whether it be the accusations of me being like I swallowed a dictionary. There's more emo. The poppier bits are poppier, the Eighties bits are Eighties-er. It's more like a John Hughes film. It's like a distillation of everything that preceded it, so that's one of the things that I'm really proud of." That's one way to handle criticism.

Why did The 1975 suddenly go neon pink?

The 1975 are a band that revels in aesthetics. During the press cycle for their first album, the band strictly used black and white imagery with their now-iconic box logo. For ILIWYSFYASBYSUOI, they snapped into neon technicolor — but this idea wasn't sparked out of nothing. The band was inspired by their fans. Don't ever discredit the artistry of a fangirl on Tumblr.

"The reason it was pink was because, after we finished touring the first album, I would go on like Tumblr and stuff like that and see what the fans were doing now that they were bored because they didn't have any new visual information because we weren't in a cycle or whatever," lead singer Matt Healy told BBC Radio 1. "And they started coloring everything pink. It seemed to be that color choice."

The band ended up doing the same thing as the prior cycle — with one "visual image for every song" — but this time they used pink neon signs. Thus, the millennial pink The 1975 was born. Indeed, Healy is a millennial through and through (but whether baby boomers like him is still up for debate).

No need to be humble

Matty Healy possesses the kind of big rockstar energy that makes leather pants and a blazer sans shirt look like business casual. It's all about attitude, and like the Mick Jaggers and Keith Richards that came before him, Healy's got an air of confidence that's somehow wildly unapologetic, charmingly British, and in the words of The Guardian, big enough to "fill the Royal Albert Hall" (Americans, that's roughly half the size of Madison Square Garden). This is a guy who once pondered to the newspaper about whether or not he could be the Messiah, which The Tab included in a list of the "wankiest stuff" he's ever said.

It's not just that Healy believes in himself — a refreshing trait in a culture fueled by self-deprecation. He's basically in his favorite band. "There are no big bands who are doing anything as interesting as us right now," he boldly told Billboard. "I know I am pretentious, but I'd be the first person to tell you that. And I'm not apologizing ... it's way more pretentious to pretend you don't care about something," he told The Guardian. 

He's not wrong. Healy has nothing to be humble about. I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It debuted on the top of the Billboard 200, and The 1975's eponymous debut went platinum. What was Healy doing during this massive moment? Buying a single potato from Tesco. Relatable!

Touring led Matty Healy to heroin addiction

According to a Billboard interview, frontman Matt Healy always had a "deep, carnal desire to be sedated," which is why he started smoking weed at a young age. Part of this desire had to do with the singer's complicated relationship with sleep. He's always been plagued with nightmares that all take place in the same "dystopian housing estate surrounded by a white void." "I've grown up there,he told Billboard.

It wasn't just sleep that made Healy gravitate to heavier drugs. As the band rose in popularity, the singer graduated to opiates and anxiety medication to help him cope with tour life. "It was the polarity between connecting with 10,000 people and then going to a hotel room by myself. Mass acceptance and genuine loneliness. It was easier to mediate that with drugs," he told Rolling Stone

By 2017, Healy was in throes of heroin addiction and his drug use became such a problem that his tour manager confiscated his passport so he couldn't run away and score. According to The Fader, the singer got his passport number tattooed on his forearm because he'd pass out from being "proper high — all the time" and his tour manager would have to fill out his landing card on international flights. Healy penned the A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships track "It's Not Living If It's Not With You" as his grand ode to the devastating drug.

The band had an intervention at Latitude Festival

Matt Healy's four-year heroin addiction came to a head in July 2017 when The 1975 headlined Latitude Festival, marking the end of their ILIWYSFYASBYSUOI album cycle. "That's where it all kicked off," the frontman told The Guardian. "It should have been a massive celebration. And it was for me, but it wasn't for everyone else. I had just got back to the UK and everyone knew the first thing I was going to do."

The festival served as an intervention of sorts. According to Billboard, drummer George Daniel discovered that Healy had been using drugs again, and the singer promised he would stop when they flew to Los Angeles to record A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships. A month later, they left to record, but Healy had changed his mind. During dinner and "under the influence of benzodiazepine," Healy decided to tell his bandmates that he wasn't getting clean. "Being a f**king a**hole: 'Hey guys, you need to watch me sabotage myself and still be my best friends and just be fine with that,'" he told The Guardian.

Healy did realize his mistake. According to Billboard, he woke up the next morning embarrassed, and told Daniel that he needed rehab. Four months after the initial Latitude intervention, he checked himself into a rehab clinic in Barbados for about seven weeks (though Rolling Stone cites six weeks) and never looked back.

Rehab was the longest the band members have been apart since they were kids

According to The Fader, Matt Healy's rehab program was the longest he's been away from his bandmate-slash-best friend George Daniel since they were children, but they stayed connected through text messages. While Daniel decompressed in California, Healy was scoffing at the center's alternative therapy and detoxing from benzodiazepines, which, per Rolling Stone, was "grim" enough to make him want to quit just one week in. The former experience unexpectedly led to one of the most profound moments of his life.

In an interview Skavlan, the cynical Brit admitted he spent the first three days of equine therapy "in a field rolling [his] eyes next to a horse" before realizing the beauty it had to offer. "[The horse] had the ability to destroy anything it wanted with a desire to, like, hurt nothing. It was physically perfect and strong, and it was forgiving with its time with me, and it was, like, kind of compassionate in a way ... I found myself envying all these human qualities in a horse," he said.

Healy told The Fader that he's only slipped up a couple of times since rehab, but heroin is a thing of his past. According to Billboardhe's even volunteered to take drug tests in front of his band.

It's not living if it's not with gender equality

The 1975 haven't been afraid to rally for certain causes in their lyrics. Their single "Love It If We Made It" ran through a number of hot-button topics like Black Lives Matter, immigration, refugees, renewable energy, prison reform, Donald Trump, and Lil' Peep's death. Still, according to Billboard, it's rare that the band makes an "explicit" political statement. We saw it once when singer Matt Healy spoke about Brexit at Glastonbury Festival, the day after the public vote took place. We saw it again in 2020, when the band vowed to fight for gender equality.

When the lineup for Reading and Leeds Festival was announced in February 2020, it didn't take long for the internet to notice it was severely lacking in gender diversity. According to MixMag, only 20 of the 91 acts announced in February had female members. Only three main stage acts included women. This drew criticism from legendary Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac and sprung The 1975 to action.

In a shocking tweet, Healy vowed to only play festivals that were gender balanced (barring the few he already booked). "Take this as me signing this contract ... From now I will and believe this is how male artist[s] can be true allies," he wrote, adding, "I'm sure my agents are having kittens right now but times up man people need to act and not chat."

Greta Thunberg was The 1975's first ever collaborator

Notes on a Conditional Form features the band's first ever collaboration — and it's not with the usual pop contenders like DJ Khalid or Nicki Minaj. Instead, they teamed up with Greta Thunberg, the teenager whose passionate speech on climate change sparked a global movement. Thunberg's voice can be heard at the start of "The 1975" slamming an older generation who's failed the planet.

According to NME, singer Matt Healy and drummer George Daniel went to Thunberg's native Sweden to record the track. It was one of the few times the singer has been starstruck, which probably happens infrequently once you become an actual rock star. "Greta is the most punk person I've ever met in my life," Healy told Pedestrian TV, adding, "I'd been kind of, not pessimistic, but just quite a depressed outlook on the situation. Kind of like a nihilistic, almost, attitude of 'oh well, we're all f**ked.' Then after meeting her ... I kind of left with a bit of hope, you know?"

In addition to Thunberg's guest spot, The 1975 has put its money where its mouth is. The band planned to donate all proceeds from the track to Extinction Rebellion and is adamantly working to "minimize [its] environmental impact," according to The Guardian. The band's label's office also phased out plastic packaging like CD jewel cases and shrink wrap and opted for more environmentally friendly lightweight vinyl.

Matt Healy's sobriety may be The 1975's greatest challenge

The album cycle for Notes on a Conditional Form is going to have a lot of firsts for frontman Matt Healy. At a time when the band should be resting on its laurels, it might just prove to be the toughest album cycle yet as the star relearns how to live his life without hard drugs.

"I'm doing all the things now that I used to do when I took drugs all the time," Healy told Skavlan. Describing the completion of his creative work sober, including recording and touring, "an experience" and "a challenge, he added, "You just got to take it day by day as the cliche says."

Healy told The Fader that he's only slipped up a couple of times since his rehab stint. He used heroin once before the release of A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships and again at the start of 2019, but he says it's fully a thing of the past. If it's not, Healy's bandmates are prepared to lose it all. "The boys and I all feel the same way, which is that we don't want to do this if it means losing him," manager Jamie Oborne told The Fader. "I can't imagine a life without Matthew."